Today we are to discuss a very important event in the entire Ramayana story, wherein the Vaanara army is contemplating their further advancement towards Lanka city. Till now we have witnessed that the huge army under the leadership of Rama and Sugriva have started their journey from Kishkinta, travelled westwards to some distance and then turn towards the southern direction, parallel to the present day Arabian Sea coast and to the Western Ghats. They cross different mountain ranges all along their way such as “Sahyaadri”, “Kodagu”, Thiruvidaangur” and through “Mahendragiri” Mountain ranges to reach “Kolachal” near Kanniyakumari – the southern tip of India. Now Rama and Sugriva contemplate the route further, and they now take a turn towards the eastern direction, cross over the “Mahendragiri” mountain ranges to reach the eastern coast of the present day “Bay of Bengal”.
Now the discussion on the bridge construction commences:
As they are at almost the tip of the western coast, (from the description given in the Vaalmiki Ramayana, this place should come close to the present day town of “Kolachal”, which is south of the present day capital city of Kerala – Trivandrum), Lord Rama asks Sugriva to check if this would be a good place from where a bridge can be constructed to cross over to Lanka. However, given the loose soil conditions and other factors, it is not feasible to build a bridge from this particular location. It is for this reason that the Vaanara army turns towards the eastern side.
We would be having a doubt in our mind as to why did the army turn towards the east, given that so far they had been advancing only along the western coast. It is only because of the non-feasibility to construct the bridge from Kolachal, they had to turn towards the eastern side, cross over the Mountain range of “Mahendragiri” of the Western Ghats, to reach the eastern coast.
As the army moves towards the eastern coast along the Bay of Bengal, they come very close to the present day town of “Tutucorin” in Tamil Nadu. If we look at the map of south India closely, this Tutucorin and Kolachal would come on the same horizontal line with each other – Kolachal in the west coast and Tutucorin in the east coast.
In the Vaalmiki Ramayana, we can often note the usage of a name called “Velaavanam” to denote the place on the east coast, wherein the army is currently standing. If we look closely at the map, we can trace this “Velaavanam” area to be between the towns of “Tiruchendur” till the famous “Raameshwaram”, both on the east coast, in the state of Tamil Nadu. So if we say that the Vaanara army has reached this place called “Velaavanam”, it is evident that the army has deviated from the west coast and reached the east coast. As they move towards the east coast, they further proceed a little northwards from Tutucorin, to reach this “Velaavanam”.
We might immediately ask a doubt – How does the place called “Velaavanam” cover such a huge distance? As mentioned above, If we look at the current day geography of this area, this “Velaavanam” in the present day encompasses through Tiruchendur and ends at Rameshwaram. If we calculate the distance between Tutucorin and Rameshwaram, it would be more than 100 kilometres! Thus we would have a doubt as to how big can this “Velaavanam” be! Here, we should remember one thing – The Vaanara army is way too huge and if we try and calculate the number of monkeys with the present day counting system, it comes to around 52 crore monkeys (or 520 million) monkeys. So, if these many monkeys have to stand in one place, doesn’t it require such a huge distance to accommodate all of them? Perhaps, this is one reason why Vaalmiki Maharishi mentions about “Velaavanam” encompassing hundreds of kilometres from Tutucorin, northwards towards Rameshwaram. This might also be one of the reasons why the bridge that was constructed, was 100 yojanas in length and 10 yojanas in width, to accommodate all these 520 million monkeys! It should be remembered that 1 yojana equals 10 to 15 kilometres. So, if the bridge has to be 10 yojanas in width, it should span for a width of around 100 kilometres (approximately)! This is why the place called “Velaavanam” is spread across an approximate distance of around 100 kilometres.
With regards to the length of the bridge, the Vaalmiki Ramayana says that the distance between India and Sri Lanka at that time was around 100 yojanas, which transforms to approximately 1000 kilometres! Perhaps, Sri Lanka and India were 1000 kilometres away from each other at that time! (Today however we see that India and Sri Lanka are separated by a mere 100 kilometres along the Palk Strait).
Thus, going by the above calculations, the width of the “Ram-Sethu” bridge when it was constructed at that time should be around 100-150 kilometres. However, what we see today (Adam’s bridge) is perhaps just one small portion of that huge bridge.
Thus according to the Vaalmiki Ramayana, the bridge was so huge that all the 520 million monkeys could cross over at the same time!
Hence we can see from all the above descriptions that the “Ram-Sethu” Bridge has indeed existed and we can justify this with all the above-explained facts. It is really saddening in the present day to note that some people have the audacity to question the very existence of this bridge, inspite of so many evidences available in our spiritual literature. The irony today is that, such people come with cheap comments with their shortsighted approach towards available literature and there are many others who blindly support them just to score some political brownie points!
Thus the entire army is getting ready to build the “Ram-Sethu” bridge across the ocean. From today, let us also join the Vaanara army in building the bridge brick by brick! We shall wait till the next episode for the action to continue!! 🙂